Giants New Priority: Sign Kirk Cousins

Eli Manning‘s streak of 210 consecutive games started will officially come to an end in Week 13. The Giants organization and head coach Ben McAdoo have handled this in the worst way possible. I would have understood, and I’m sure many would agree, if the Giants benched Eli for rookie QB Davis Webb. However, they are starting QB Geno Smith instead. A guy who has thrown 28 TDs to 36 interceptions in 34 career games. HE IS HORRIBLE. There is no other way to put it. It is time to move on from this topic, and it seems as if the Giants are ready to move on from Eli Manning.

So, who will be the man under center for the Giants come 2018? Yes, you read the title right. Kirk “You Like That” Cousins. How do the Giants do this? Why would the Giants do this? What would this mean for the rest of their off-season? Do not try to think too much and hurt yourself. I got you covered.

Step 1: Trade Eli Manning

Eli Manning does have a good amount of money left on his contract and a no-trade clause. After the way the Giants organization has treated him recently, I would not be surprised to see him waive his NTC if he was going to a team that can win immediately. Manning has 2-3 good years left and he is going to want to win soon. What team has enough cap space and will please Eli? Hello, Jacksonville! Jacksonville will have around $34M in cap space when the 2018 off-season begins. They also have a dominant defense, solid run game, and Tom Coughlin. Blake Bortles is not the answer for them. They need to upgrade the QB position if they want to find success. Eli will bring veteran leadership to a young team that has the pieces to win right away. He will fit nicely and the Jags could either cut Bortles, or possibly move him to a desperate team. In return the Giants could receive a package in the ball park of a 2018 2nd rounder and 2019 5th rounder.

Step 2: Cut Marshall, Harris, and Armstrong

When the Giants signed Brandon Marshall, I thought it was a steal. Boy, was I wrong. Marshall went down with an injury early in the year, but even before then he looked like he had brick hands. He was dropping balls left and right, while giving no effort at all. The signing of Dwayne Harris was just not good. The Giants overpaid for a player who they thought could be a game changer in the return game, but he has been abysmal at that position. He also is not a very good wide receiver. He is good as a gunner on special teams, but it is not worth the contract he has. Who is Ray-Ray Armstrong? I did not even know this man was on the Giants roster, nonetheless under contract through 2018. Goodbye. By cutting these three players the Giants would save themselves a little more than $8.8M.

Step 3: Restructure Janoris Jenkins

In 2016, Janoris Jenkins was arguably the best cover corner in all of football. This year, he has looked lazy and has been placed on injured reserve. He should be embarrassed, as should this whole team, for the lack of effort he has given in some games this year. A change of power should change his attitude. However, the Giants need to save some more money somewhere. They can restructure a few big contracts. I think Jenkins is the most likely to restructure and he certainly should after the lack of effort he has displayed at points this year. If the Giants restructure his contract, they can save about $7.5M.

Step 4: Sign Captain Kirk

Here it is. The moment you have all been waiting for. Kirk Cousins will receive a hefty contract this off-season, but it will be well worth it. I see him signing around 5-years/$130M. After all these moves the Giants certainly have the cap space to make this possible, and they should. Cousins will be 30 years old when the 2018 season begins, which means he can definitely give the Giants at least 5 good years.

Kirk Cousins is having a fantastic season, once again. Cousins gets a lot of blame for the Redskins’ lack of success since he became their full time started in 2015, but that is not all on him. Kirk has started one playoff game for the Redskins, which came in 2015. He passed for 329 yards and threw for one TD, while completing 63% of his passes. The problem in that game, and this has been the case for the Redskins most of the time since 2015, was the lack of defense and a rushing attack. Let’s take a look at the three years in which Kirk has been a starer.

2015:

  • 69.8% Pass Completion Percentage (1st)
  • 101.6 Passer Rating (5th)
  • 379 Passes Completed (7th)
  • 3 Game Winning Drives (8th)
  • 4,166 Passing Yards (10th)
  • 2 Comebacks (10th)

2016:

  • 406 Passes Completed (3rd)
  • 4,917 Passing Yards (3rd)
  • 307.3 Passing Yards/Game (3rd)
  • 4 Comebacks (4th)
  • 4 Game Winning Drives (5th)
  • 97.2 Passer Rating (7th)
  • 67.0% Pass Completion Percentage (8th)

2017 (As of 12/1):

  • 4 Game Winning Drives (1st)
  • 275 Passes Completed (2nd)
  • 3,289 Passing Yards (2nd)
  • 21 Passing TDs (4th)
  • 274.1 Passing Yards/Game (5th)
  • 66.6% Pass Completion Percentage (6th)
  • 99.6 Passer Rating (7th)
  • 1 Comeback (8th)

Safe to say Kirk is at least a top-10 QB in the NFL right now. The Giants would be extremely wise to go out and sign this man, even if it means overpaying a bit. If the Giants can go out and make this possible, they could afford to trade down in the draft and accumulate draft picks. This would give them the ability to add multiple players, through the draft, to positions that they desperately need upgrades at. Cough, running back and offensive line, cough. The Giants would also have about $20M more in cap space after signing Kirk, restructuring Jenkins, and cutting the players I mentioned.

Call me crazy for thinking about this happening, but it is a real possibility. It is becoming more and more realistic that Eli can be traded this off-season. This would mean the Giants would a craving to sign, or draft, a quarterback. Are any of the QBs in this upcoming draft worth a second or third overall pick? That I am not sure of, but this roster is good enough to win next year if they stay healthy. Kirk Cousins could be the answer for years to come as a replacement for Eli. Think about it for a second before calling me crazy.

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Week 13 NFL Picks

I apologize for not posting our Week 12 picks. I was not able to do so as I had some family issues to deal with, but we are back this week! The standings are getting tighter and tighter each week!

Standings:

Ismael 92-52
Nick 91-53

Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys

Nick

The Cowboys have looked downright awful since Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended. Dak Prescott has looked like a FRAUD and their defense has not been very good either. Kirk Cousins did not play great in his first matchup this year against the Cowboys, but I expect him to bounce back in this one.

Score: Redskins 31, Cowboys 24

Ismael

Let’s just face it, the Cowboys aren’t as good as we thought they were, especially having loss the last 3 games by a combined 70 points! The Redskins won an ugly game to Giants on Thanksgiving last week, but have been competitive since losing to the Cowboys at home back in Week 8. It’s Week 13 now and both teams don’t really have much to play for besides bragging rights. Except for that damp Week 8 game, Kirk Cousins has had a lot of success against the Cowboys over the last couple of years. The Cowboys are looking bad on all fronts whether it’s in the passing game, the running game, on defense with their secondary. At least the Redskins can say that they’ve competed even with a depleted roster. Redskins should win this on TNF.

Score: Redskins 28, Cowboys 23

Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets

Nick

SHOOTOUT ALERT!!!! Yes, I expect this game to be high-scoring. The Chiefs’ offense has been struggling lately, but they are going to break out eventually. This is the game they do so. Alex Smith knows Patrick Mahomes is breathing down his neck, but he will step up big time this week. Josh McCown should have a big game as well. The McCown-Robby Anderson connection has been on fire the past 4-5 weeks or so.

Score: Chiefs 33, Jets 30

Ismael

Is there a team that has looked as ugly as the Cowboys have in recent weeks? Yes, they’re called the Kansas City Chiefs. After starting the season 5-0, they have gone 1-5 since with losing the last three games against the Cowboys, Giants, and Bills. Teams we thought were inferior to the Chiefs throughout half the season. Their offensive line have been bad and the play-calling hasn’t helped them either. The Jets lost a tough one at home against the Panthers a week ago, but 3 of their 4 games at home this year. The Chiefs brought in longtime Jet Darelle Revis into their secondary, but I think Robby Anderson has been almost unstoppable at times for the Jets. I’m calling for an upset here, the Chiefs have just been a complete mess.

Score: Jets 24, Chiefs 21

Minnesota Vikings vs. Atlanta Falcons

Nick

The Vikings were able to stop a hot, high-scoring offense when they faced the Rams. Can they have a repeat effort against the Falcons? Case Keenum is having an outstanding season for the Vikings as he has led them to one of the best records in the NFL. The Falcons pass defense has been very good this year, but their rush defense has been mediocre. If they want success this week they are going to have to stop Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. The Vikings have won seven in a row, but that streak ends this week.

Score: Falcons 24, Vikings 21

Ismael

Another tough one to judge. The Vikings have won 7 in a row while the Falcons have won 4 of their last 5. Case Keenum has been on fire recently and I’m not sure not even the Falcons can stop him. I also the like the Vikings better defensively here, and I really doubt Julio Jones will have as big of a game he had last week. The Vikings are proving people wrong this year, and a win will further make people take them as serious super bowl favorites.

Score: Vikings 27, Falcons 24

Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens

Nick

Matthew Stafford IS the Lions’ offense. The Lions have not been able to run the ball for years now. The Ravens defense is phenomenal, but they are open to being beat by the run. Bad news for the Lions. Another disadvantage is the Lions have to travel to Baltimore for this one. If the Ravens can find just a little bit of a groove on the offensive end then they will find success in this game. I’m looking at you Danny Woodhead.

Score: Ravens 20, Lions 17

Ismael

This is a tough one to call. The Lions were topped at home on Thanksgiving last week against the Vikings while the Ravens won a low-scoring game against the Texans last Monday night. The Lions have a better record on the road this year than at home being 4-1 away from Detroit and 2-4 in Detroit. Marvin Jones Jr. scorched one of the best corner’s in the league in Xavier Rhodes last week, and should draw Baltimore’s best corner in this one meaning someone like Golden Tate might see more action. I just trust the Lions more to put up points and not look all that shaky on offense. Lions win a tight one.

Score: Lions 23, Ravens 21

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills

Nick

Remember when everyone was panicking about the Patriots in the first four weeks of the season? HA, FOOLS! Do not ever doubt the brilliance of Bill Belichick. During their seven game winning streak, the Pats have held opponents to 17 points or less. They have found their groove. I do not seen Tyrod Taylor and the Bills being able to end the Pats winning streak this week, especially with Kelvin Benjamin ruled out.

Score: Patriots 27, Bills 17

Ismael

The Pats’ offense have just been merciless this year, scoring more than 21 points since Week 6 and more than 33 points in the last 3 games. The Bills beat the Chiefs last week, but it wasn’t pretty. The Chiefs are just bad, not giving credit to the Bills’ defense. They have been one of the worst run defenses in the league this year which will help the dual-threat in Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead to flourish this week. This might be a trap game for the Pats since they just love to drop a random game against a team in their division, but they’re rolling and they would like to keep up with the Steelers before their match-up in a couple weeks.

Score: Patriots 33, Bills 21

San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears

Nick

The Jimmy G era in San Francisco has begun. The Bears are a bad team, as are the 49ers. This is going to be the ugliest game of the week by far. However, I expect Jimmy to sprinkle some magic and spark into this Niners team and lead them to victory.

Score: 49ers 23, Bears 21

Ismael

The Jimmy Garroppolo era begins! Well technically it started last week when he came in late into last weeks game against the Seahawks and threw a quick TD. He’s got a tough test though, facing the Bears on the road and in frigid weather. I think he’ll perform fairly well, but it’s his defense letting down in the end. I see Jordan Howard having a big game for the Bears, being enough to beat the Niners. I’m keeping this game close because of how shaky the Bears’ offense has looked over the past few weeks. Look at Dontrelle Inman in DFS games.

Score: Bears 24, 49ers 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers

Nick

Jameis Winston returns this week for the Bucs, who actually were playing good football before last week’s game against the Falcons. Ty Montgomery has been ruled out for the Packers and they are thin all around the field. Playing at Lambo is never easy, but this is not the Packers team that you expect to see on the field week in and week out.

Score: Buccaneers 30, Packers 23

Ismael

Brett Hundley finally had a break-out game last week against the Steelers, but did it in a losing effort. I can see him torching the Bucs secondary here with Davante Adams on his side, especially after the Bucs gave up more than 200 yards through the air to Julio Jones last week. Finally getting the hang of things, being at home, and with the possibility of Aaron Rodgers returning this year I think Hundley will make the most out of his opportunities and will try to bring the Packers to a good place if Rodgers does return.

Score: Packers 27, Buccaneers 23

Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Nick

The first time these two teams played it was an ugly one as the Jags shutout the Colts 27-0. That was 6 weeks ago, but nothing has changed for either side since. The Jags should dominate a porous Colts’ offensive line in route to a dominant victory.

Score: Jaguars 23, Colts 10

Ismael

Jags at home against a shaky offense, wonder what will happen? Good things will happen, at least for Jaguars it will. Their great defense will shut-down the limited options the Colts have on offense and the Jags own offense will take advantage of a depleted Colts D. Look at Dede Westbrook as a sleeper in DFS.

Score: Jaguars 27, Colts 13

Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins

Nick

These two teams should just be happy we have a Bears/49ers matchup this week because these two teams SUCK. The Broncos have a big, big problem at the QB position, while the Dolphins are starting Jay Cutler. LOL. This is going to be an ugly, low-scoring game. The better defense will win this game. That’s good news for the Broncos.

Score: Broncos 17, Dolphins 14

Ismael

Ugh, I cringe at the thought of this game. Broncos have shuffled through 3 QBs and are back to their Week 1 starter in Trevor Siemian. I’ll keep this short though. The Dolphins in my opinion have been playing like an overall better team. They’re at home and at least haven’t looked as bad in their 5 game losing streak as the Broncos have in their 7 game losing streak.

Score: Dolphins 22, Broncos 16

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans

Nick

It does not matter who is at QB or who the Texans are playing, DeAndre Hopkins cannot be stopped. I expect a big game from him against a poor Titans’ defense, but that is where it ends for the Texans. The Titans are the better team while the Texans are without J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson.

Score: Titans 27, Texans 20

Ismael

Outside of really Delanie Walker from Tennessee and DeAndre Hopkins from Houston, both of these teams haven’t done much on offense lately. I think if you match-up the Texans with at least a decent defense now, it won’t look pretty. I think this whole game may not be pretty, but the Titans should take this one at home.

Score: Titans 26, Texans 21

New York Giants vs. Oakland Raiders

Nick

I’m in full “Fuck the Giants” mode after the benching of Eli Manning. It’s disgusting the way this organization has handled the situation. Geno Smith is the starter this week against the Raiders. Wow, just wow. The Raiders should stomp all over the Giants this week, but I actually expect Smith to have a big game this week before he goes back to being Geno Smith in week 14.

Score: Raiders 33, Giants 27

Ismael

The Giants made the biggest mistake they could ever make by benching probable future hall of famer Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith. Having said that, you had me at Geno Smith. He’s just bad and I expect rookie Davis Webb to get some time in the near future. Then with the Raiders, they lost Michael Crabtree to suspension and look to be losing Amari Cooper to injury. So they’re limited in their receiving corps, but they shouldn’t have much of a problem this week. This will be a low-scoring, ugly game going to the home team.

Score: Raiders 19, Giants 14

Cleveland Browns vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Nick

Philip Rivers lit up the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Keenan Allen has finally found his stride. Maybe next week Browns .. Probably not, though.

Score: Chargers 28, Browns 13

Ismael

You had me at Browns. On the road against a hot Chargers team lead by Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen, I don’t see this one being close. Browns got their one and only win last year against the Chargers last year, but this is a much different Chargers team they’re facing this year.

Score: Chargers 30, Browns 14

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Nick

The Panthers looked like frauds last week when they allowed the Jets to put up 27 points against them. The four game suspension of Charles Johnson does not help their case. The Saints got beat by a good Rams team last week, but I expect them to bounce back at home against the Panthers. They just have too many weapons.

Score: Saints 27, Panthers 23

Ismael

This should be a good one, with both teams tied with an 8-3 record at the top of the AFC South. The Saints were not phased in their last match-up against the Panthers on the road, so being at home should give them a leg-up this week. Alvin Kamara is a beast and I cannot emphasize that enough. Although the Panthers have allowed the 3rd fewest yards per game on the ground, there’s nothing that can stop Kamara now. I’ll take the Saints at home in this division match-up.

Score: Saints 28, Panthers 24

Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals

Nick

The Rams have one of the best offensive units in football even without Robert Woods. The Cardinals have been struggling against the pass this year as they currently rank 19th in passing yards allowed per game. They are also letting up the 25th most points per game. That is not a recipe for success against the second highest scoring offense in football.

Score: Rams 35, Cardinals 21

Ismael

Rams won a close won at home against the Saints a week ago while the Cardinals shocked the Jaguars at home. Rams are just better at almost every facet in the game than the Cards, and looked pretty good in their match-up earlier this past season. Who cares if they’re on the road, Rams are just too good.

Score: Rams 28, Cardinals 17

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seattle Seahawks

Nick

The Eagles have the best record in football and they look like the best team in the NFC right now. I’m still not sold. The Eagles have only played two teams so far this year who currently have a record over .500, the Panthers and Chiefs. They lost to the Chiefs in week 2, but beat the Panthers in week 6. This is their first true test in seven weeks and maybe their toughest test of the season. If Carson Wentz can lead the Eagles to victory in this one then he is my MVP front runner and I am officially sold on the Eagles.

Score: Seahawks 23, Eagles 21

Ismael

A great test for the Eagles here, facing the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom on Sunday night football. But like I said in the Rams/Cards game, who cares if they’re on the road, they’re just too good. They’ll have to really scrap and grind for this win, but I expect them to past this test.

Score: Eagles 24, Seahawks 21

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Nick

The Bengals have won three of their last five, while the Steelers are on a six game winning streak. Two teams playing some good football. The Steelers have won five straight games against the Bengals, but division games are always hard to predict as it seems players have a little extra energy for them. Ben Roethlisberger has stepped it up after a slow start. During the Steelers six game winning streak, Big Ben has thrown for 1,679 yards and 14 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. The Steelers dominated the Bengals in week 7, but the Bengals are playing  better football since then.

Score: Steelers 24, Bengals 23

Ismael

Antonio Brown is not someone any opposing secondary wants to face, but sadly for Bengals they have to go against him on Monday night. He should get more get more help this week against a top 5 defense in lowest yards allowed through the air per game, with Juju Smith-Schuster back to space the field out more. Unless you put them against a bad defense, the Bengals’ offense is just not a pretty sight. Steelers should take this one against a division rival, even on the road.

Score: Steelers 24, Bengals 16

Eli Manning: The Second Greatest NFL Player in New York Football History

April 24, 2004 is a date that Giants fans will remember for the rest of their lives. Eli Manning was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the first pick in the draft, while the Giants selected Philip Rivers with the fourth pick. Manning and Rivers did not last on those teams very long. Eli refused to play for the Chargers and the team had no choice but to trade him. The Giants and Chargers agreed to a trade that sent Manning to the Giants, while Rivers and three-draft picks (2004 3rd and 5th, 2005 1st) were sent to the Chargers. It is safe to say that the trade has panned out for the Giants.

Lawrence Taylor is the greatest player in New York Football history, by far. Who is number two? There have been plenty of great players that have worn the blue and white, or the green and white, but I am hear to say that Eli is right behind LT. Many will argue that Joe Namath was better than Eli. Joe Namath was OVERRATED. Let’s compare the two QBs throughout their New York careers.

Eli Manning:

  • 210 Games Started (2nd longest consecutive streak of All-Time)
  • 4,319 Passes Completed (6th All-Time)
  • 50,625 Passing Yards (7th All-Time)
  • 334 Passing TDs (7th All-Time)
  • 30 Comebacks (7th All-Time)
  • 40 Game-Winning Drives (8th All-Time)
  • 12 Playoff Games Started (14th All-Time)
  • 83.8 Passer Rating
  • 59.8% Passes Completed
  • 222 Interceptions
  • 4 x Pro-Bowler
  • 2 x SB Champ
  • 2 x SB MVP
  • Future HOF

Joe Namath

  • 129 Games Started
  • 1,836 Passes Completed
  • 27,057 Passing Yards
  • 170 Passing TDs
  • 16 Comebacks
  • 16 Game-Winning Drives
  • 3 Playoff Games Started
  • 65.8 Passer Rating
  • 50.2% Passes Completed
  • 215 Interceptions
  • 5 x Pro-Bowler
  • 1 x SB Champ
  • 1 x SB MVP
  • 1 x All-Pro
  • HOF

Yes, Eli has played many more games than Namath and some of his numbers may be higher for that reason. But, what about some of the other numbers? Namath’s completion percentage, passer rating and interceptions are abysmal. Namath has thrown 42 more interceptions than touchdowns in his time in New York. HORRIBLE. Not to mention how clutch Eli has been throughout his career. He has 40 game-winning drives compared to Namath’s 16 and 12 playoff games compared to Namath’s 3.

Joe Namath’s one SB victory came at a time in which he only had to win 2 games to accomplish the feat. The Raiders were a very good team in 1968 when Namath and the Jets defeated them, but they did not have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. When Eli and the Giants defeated the Patriots in 2007 they were undefeated before that game. 18-0. They might have been the best team in NFL history. Randy Moss and Tom Brady had an insane connection. The Patriots, since 2000, may be the greatest dynasty in all of sports. They have reached the Super Bowl seven times since then, while winning it five times! Who handed them those two losses? ELI MANNING. You can say all you want about the defense and the lucky catches, but someone had to make those throws right?

Whether or not you want to put Eli over Namath, he is still a top-5 player in New York football history. He has brought the Giants two Super Bowls and many great memories in his 14 seasons with the team. The way they have treated him this week is downright disgusting. Eli deserves to be treated with more respect because of all the success he has been able to bring this franchise.

Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins may have been the last time we ever will see Eli under center for the New York Giants. He may be released or he may be traded come next year. No matter what happens Eli Manning is a legend in the eyes of Giants’ fans. He has brought all of us so many fond memories that we will never forget. As a Giants fan I cannot thank Eli enough for the joy he has brought me over these past 14 years. Thank you, Eli.

Week 13 NFL Power Rankings

  1. Philadelphia Eagles 10-1 (-)
  2. New England Patriots 9-2 (-)
  3. Minnesota Vikings 9-2 (-)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-2 (Up 1)
  5. Los Angeles Rams 8-3 (Up 1)
  6. New Orleans Saints 8-3 (Down 2)
  7. Carolina Panthers 8-3 (-)
  8. Atlanta Falcons 7-4 (Up 1)
  9. Seattle Seahawks 7-4 (Up 1)
  10. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-4 (Down 2)
  11. Tennessee Titans 7-4 (Up 1)
  12. Detroit Lions 6-5 (Down 1)
  13. Buffalo Bills 6-5 (Up 3)
  14. Baltimore Ravens 6-5 (Up 1)
  15. Kansas City Chiefs 6-5 (Down 2)
  16. Washington Redskins 5-6 (Up 1)
  17. Los Angeles Chargers 5-6 (Up 5)
  18. Dallas Cowboys 5-6 (Down 4)
  19. Arizona Cardinals 5-6 (-)
  20. Cincinnati Bengals 5-6 (Up 1)
  21. Oakland Raiders 5-6 (Up 3)
  22. Green Bay Packers 5-6 (Down 4)
  23. New York Jets 4-7 (Down 3)
  24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-7 (Down 1)
  25. Houston Texans 4-7 (-)
  26. Miami Dolphins 4-7 (-)
  27. Indianapolis Colts 3-8 (Up 2)
  28. Denver Broncos 3-8 (Down 1)
  29. Chicago Bears 3-8 (Down 1)
  30. New York Giants 2-9 (-)
  31. San Francisco 49ers 1-10 (-)
  32. Cleveland Browns 0-11 (-)

The Story of Valentina Allen: Half the Heart, but Twice the Fight

On February 15, 2013 Danielle and Ryan Allen gave birth to their second child, Valentina. However, this beautiful baby girl was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) 20 weeks into Danielle’s pregnancy, but Valentina was quite the fighter.

Throughout the pregnancy, Danielle and Ryan knew they had to make a very difficult decision. They visited several hospitals and received many recommendations from different doctors. Most did not give Valentina much of a chance at all. However, one hospital would match Valentina’s fight. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia gave her the fighting chance that the parents needed to hear.

The birth of Valentina, which was a question mark in itself, was a success. When examining her condition, the doctors realized not only was she born with half a heart, but also what was on the left should have been on the right and vice versa. This made every surgery even more difficult.

Valentina went through countless surgeries before she did not have any more fight left in her. On May 12, 2015, at just two years old, Valentina passed. Many looked at this as a battle that was lost. However, those same people did not realize that the battle was just beginning.

Danielle and Ryan could have sat back and grieved, which would have been completely understandable, but they did not do that. They were inspired by their daughter’s two-year fight and they continue till this day to raise money and fight for other’s who are in the same shoes that Valentina once was.

Their story and fight has inspired others to join along. The battle started off small with small donations, and wristbands and t-shirts being sold in Valentina’s name. However, it continued to grow. In the two years since her passing, Danielle and Ryan have raised nearly $200,000 through various fundraisers. Most recently, the Angels of the Bay Foundation donated over $40,000 in Valentina’s name to CHOP. The family also collects toys during the holiday season to bring to the hospital so the kids who are spending their days there have something to bring them joy. The ultimate goal is to have a cardiology examining room at CHOP to be named in Valentina’s honor.

The fight is far from over and people are still getting on board. I encourage you to help continue this fight and hopefully a cure can be found. There are various treatments for patients who are diagnosed with HLHS, but a cure is yet to be found. Some do live with this disease, but there are complications that they face their whole lives. They have to deal with taking medicine day after day, check-ups too often, and even additional surgery may be required. Some patients are lucky enough to receive heart transplants, but even then the fight does not stop. These patients have to take medicines for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the new heart.

It is time that HLHS becomes more known so we can stop others from suffering down the road. The people fighting this battle have been tremendous so far, but it is far from over. The support system continues to grow and it has now reached college sports. The St. Joseph’s Brooklyn Women’s Basketball team will be playing in Valentina’s honor for their first six home games. These games will be played on November 15th, 21st, 28th, and 30th, and December 2nd and 5th. During these games the team will be collecting donations with all the proceeds going towards CHOP, while collecting toys as well for the kids who spend their holidays at the Hospital. On December 5th they will hold a ceremony in honor of Valentina. I urge you to come support these girls as they play for a growing cause. Do not let the battle stop now. Help us in making sure this continues to grow. The fight is far from over, but the light is in sight.

HLHS is a disease that is overlooked too often and awareness needs to increase. All I ask is that you spread the word about HLHS. I am not expecting anyone to donate or take further action, but anything helps. Visit the donation page if you wish to help the cause. You can also help the cause by coming out and supporting the St. Joseph’s College Women’s Basketball Team. As mentioned, they will be collecting donations via 50/50 raffle and donation jars, while collecting toys as well. You can learn more about Valentina and the growing community who has been helping support the cause and raise awareness by visiting the Facebook page that was started by her parents, Ryan and Danielle. Once again, just help spread the word by sharing this article, retweeting the tweet about it on New York Groove’s Twitter page, or just talking about HLHS in your community. Let’s continue this fight together, so one day we can finally put an end to HLHS.

Turkey Targets: Thanksgiving DFS Spotlight

Turkey Targets: Thanksgiving DFS Spotlight

By Nathan Smith
The purpose of this article is to break down each Thanksgiving NFL game from a DFS perspective. Strategies and player recommendations are given, in accordance with DraftKings strategy and player pricing. This isn’t a player by player pick column, but rather a strategy article designed to ignite your thinking and research process for this three game Thanksgiving slate. 

Thanksgiving, NFL, and DFS: what more could we ask for? Everyone has many different ways of celebrating this classic American holiday, but differences aside, one thing most people all seem to love is NFL football. I am certainly thankful to have it as a core part of the day long celebration. As is tradition, 2017 brings us a great trio of games that will air on national television back to back to back. Before we get started breaking down the action, here’s how the three game slate shapes up:

  • Minnesota Vikings (8-2) @ Detroit Lions (6-4)
    • 12:30 PM Eastern on FOX
  • Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
    • 4:30 PM Eastern on CBS
  • New York Giants (2-8) @ Washington Redskins (4-6)
    • 8:30 PM Eastern on NBC

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 45, with the Vikings being favored by 3 points. This indicates that Las Vegas expects the Vikings to win this game, but they also expect the Lions to play well in front of their home crowd.

Weather & Injuries

This game will be played inside the dome setting of Ford Field, meaning we don’t have to worry about any weather concerns. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about injuries. The Vikings are dealing with injury concern for two key defensive stars in Xavier Rhodes and Everson Griffin. On the flip side, the Lions are unsure if stud DE Ziggy Ansah will be able to suit up. Minnesota’s injury report is quite extensive, although many players appear closer to probable than doubtful. Here’s how both teams look as of now:

Vikings:
  • QB Sam Bradford (OUT)
  • RB Dalvin Cook (OUT)
  • OT Mike Remmurs (Questionable)
    • Remmurs appears closer to doubtful with a concussion.
  • CB Xavier Rhodes (Questionable)
    • Rhodes is one of the games elite cornerbacks. It would be a devastating blow to the Vikings if he was ruled out, but he appears closer to probable according to Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
  • CB Mackensie Alexander (Questionable)
  • S Andrew Sendejo (Questionable)
    • Sendejo and Rhodes injuries are certainly big concerns for Minnesota. Much of the secondary is banged up, with four players appearing on the injury report.
  • S Anthony Harris (Questionable)
  • DE Everson Griffin (Questionable)
    • Griffin is the Vikings best pass rusher, playing at an all pro level. If he is unable to go, Lions’ QB Matt Stafford will have more time in the pocket. 
  • DE Brian Robison (Questionable)
    • If Griffin and/or Robison miss this game, it’s great news for the Lions’ passing attack. 
  • LB Emmanuel Lamur (Questionable)
Lions:
  • DE Ziggy Ansah (Questionable)
    • The most significant injury for Detroit, as Ansah deals with a back injury. His absence would not be good news for the Lions defense.
  • CB/KR Jamal Agnew (Questionable)
    • A knee injury has Agnew looking closer to doubtful for this game.
  • RB Dwayne Washington (Questionable)
    • Not a very significant injury as Washington is buried on the RB depth chart.

Game Breakdown

This NFC North showdown features the first place Vikings traveling to the Motor City, to take on the Lions, who are also in playoff contention. The Lions always host a game on Thanksgiving. After losing every Thanksgiving game from 2004-2011, Detroit has rebounded to win four straight, with victories over the Bears, Packers, Eagles, and Vikings. Last year brought us a low scoring affair, with the Lions hanging on for a 16-13 victory over the Vikings. These teams matched up again in week 4 of this season, with Detroit winning 14-7. Since both teams tend to struggle defending the middle of the field, I break down which players can take advantage of this and more.

The main focus for me in this game is on the wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups on both teams. In three career games against the Vikings, Lions WR Marvin Jones has had subpar performances to say the least. He has only converted 7 of 21 targets, turning that into 101 yards with no touchdowns. Jones lackluster performances can be almost exclusively attributed to Minnesota CB Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks, with the ability to shut down even the most elite receivers in the game. Rhodes is questionable for this game, but looks to be on track to play. As long as he is healthy, I expect him to continue his domination over Marvin Jones.

I have no interest in playing Marvin Jones nor Eric Ebron. Jones faces the aforementioned tough matchup and Ebron specializes in dropping passes and underachieving. With two Lions pass catchers eliminated from my player pool, my focus shifts to the remaining ones. If the Lions are going to move the ball successfully—which I think they will—then it will likely mean Golden Tate and/or one of the running backs will perform well. The Vikings are well aware of his ability, as Tate burned them badly last year. Despite the Vikings efforts, I don’t expect them to be able to contain Tate in the slot. He seems to always do his best when the lights are shining. In big time games and national television appearances, Tate usually elevates a game to another level. Golden Tate is a great play in my eyes.

Adam Thielen has had one of the best fantasy seasons of any wide receiver in the NFL. With at least 5 catches in every game so far, Thielen has shown he has a high floor, and as well as great upside. Lions cornerback Darius Slay may not be on the same level as Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes, but Slay is still very good in his own right. In week 4, he didn’t shadow a particular receiver, but indications are he may shadow WR Stefon Diggs this week. While that presents a tough matchup for Diggs, it brings an even tougher matchup for Darius Slay. There is no reason to be scared of playing Diggs here or thinking he can’t bounce back. It just comes down to which WR the Lions choose to treat as the #1 threat. Throughout the last two seasons, the Lions have had a propensity to shutdown or at least limit the opposing team’s #1 wideout. If you’re asking yourself what that means for the #2 WR, you’re on the right track. The Steelers @ Lions game in week 8 was a perfect example of how this plays out. All-world receiver Antonio Brown was limited to only 5 catches for 70 yards. On the flip side, #2 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster went off, turning 7 catches into 193 yards and a touchdown. The takeaway from this of course, is that whoever the Lions decide to treat as the #2 WR has a great chance to do well in this game. The Lions are also known to struggle against receivers over the middle of the field, which certainly sets up well for Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. The best way to attack this situation is to follow beat writers and other reports leading up to the game, to see if there is any indication of who, if anybody, CB Darius Slay will shadow. If you’re comfortable making more lineups, you can also alternate Diggs and Thielen with a 1v1 swap in your lineups, to ensure that neither one of them can burn you.

Kyle Rudolph is in play for me at tight end, as my interest in playing him is growing throughout the week. In the backfield, the Vikings feature RBs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. Murray is the thunderous between the tackles runner, with McKinnon playing more of a scat back role. In a GPP setting, I find myself wanting to play McKinnon more than Murray. After last week’s two touchdown performance, many people will gravitate towards Murray, inflating his ownership. I don’t think he is necessarily a great play, but he can turn an average game into a good one due to his prominent goal line role. With McKinnon’s ability to break off a big play touchdown at any time, I would rather take a shot on him. While it is far from guaranteed that McKinnon will do so, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he rushed for a 50+ yard touchdown. With rookie Dalvin Cook out of the mix with an injury, McKinnon has also seen more usage in both the running game and passing game. With three games over 25 fantasy points, it is clear that his expanded role, and game breaking upside make him a phenomenal play on Thursday.

The Lions backfield is made up of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Neither player has broken out this year, but both are versatile and talented enough to do so with enough usage. This situation is close to a toss up in my eyes. At 3900 and 3600 respectively, there is absolutely a ton of merit to rostering either player. Dig deep on this game if you want to find an edge between the two players. Either one of them could very well pay of their salary with ease, and add some flexibility to your salary cap while they’re at it.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 48. It is a Pick Em game, meaning no team is favored as the line is even. Las Vegas is indicating that they expect the score to be extremely close throughout this game, with neither team having the true upper hand on paper. One more takeaway is that this game is projected to be higher scoring than the other two contests, although all three games have similar totals.

Weather & Injuries

AT&T Stadium features a state of the art retractable roof. They will likely have it closed on Thursday, but If they do opt to have it open, there shouldn’t be any concern. The forecast has low, almost non existent winds and a temperature in the mid-60s. Furthermore, no rain is expected, so we can completely ignore weather conditions in the first two games. More of a concern will be injuries, as Ezekiel Elliot (suspension) isn’t the only notable Cowboy set to miss this game.

Chargers:
  • OT Joe Barksdale (Questionable)
    • With three offensive lineman listed as questionable, the effectiveness of the Chargers running game could be limited. Melvin Gordon is far and away the highest priced RB on this slate, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
  • OT Russell Okung (Questionable)
  • C Spencer Pulley (Questionable)
  • WR/PR Travis Benjamin (Questionable)
    • Benjamin is a streaky inconsistent player. He has deep threat home run ability, and is a threat to return a punt for a touchdown at any time, when healthy. 
  • WR Mike Williams (Questionable)
    • Williams role has steadily increased in the Chargers passing game. If he were to miss this game, it would be a big upgrade for the other Chargers WRs.
  • DT Corey Luiget (Questionable)
  • LB James Onwuala (Questionable)
Cowboys:
  • RB Ezekiel Elliot (OUT—suspension)
    • The Cowboys have featured a running back by committee approach since Zeke’s suspension actually started. Alfred Morris is the key beneficiary, with Rod Smith contributing in the passing game. Many people fail to realize that Darren McFadden‘s role is virtually non-existent, as he continues to be a healthy scratch in almost every game.
  • OT La’el Collins (Questionable)
  • OT Tyron Smith (Questionable)
    • The combination of Zeke being out, along with these two offensive lineman being questionable does not bode well for the Cowboys offense. 
  • LB Sean Lee (OUT)
    • Lee is the heart and soul of the Dallas defense. They play much, much worse when he is absent from the lineup. 
  • LB Anthony Hitchens (OUT)
  • DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Questionable)
  • DT Maliek Collins (Questionable)
  • K Dan Bailey (Questionable)
    • Mike Nugent will be the kicker for Dallas if Bailey misses the game. 

Game Breakdown

Like the Lions, the Cowboys always host a game on Thanksgiving. Dallas sports a 6-4 record in their last ten turkey day showdowns, including a 31-26 victory over the Redskins last season. This time around, a couple elements have changed as Dallas won’t have the luxury of relying on star running back Ezekiel Elliot, like they did last year. They will be facing an AFC foe in the Chargers, who unlike last year, are fairly healthy for the most part.

On this three game slate, running back is clearly the weakest position, with virtually no elite talent to speak of. Melvin Gordon is nearly $3000 more expensive than the next closest running back, which will drastically inflate his ownership. Inevitably, your roster construction on this slate will revolve around whether you or not you roster Gordon. DFS expert JM Tholine broke down the pros and cons of playing Melvin Gordon in his weekly article featured on RotoGrinders. I agreed with his take on the situation, and I’ll also break down two different ways to look at this scenario from a game theory perspective. Both outcomes offering a contrasting type of strategy. You’ll have to dig deep to find out which type of thinking, and which one of strategies you want to employ.

  1. Strategy #1: You lock in Melvin Gordon. The reality of a three game slate is that raw points matter. If Melvin Gordon doesn’t beat his price tag and go for 3X or 4X his salary, you will still be fine as long as he doesn’t totally bust. No other running back offers as safe a floor as Gordon does, or as high of a ceiling as he does. The Cowboys are extremely banged up on defense, and have no chance to stop the Chargers rushing attack. With Ezekiel Elliot out with a suspension, Dallas won’t be able to dominate time of possession like they normally do. This creates more opportunities and more potential carries for Gordon. Lock and load Melvin Gordon into 100% of your lineups and don’t think twice about it. Even if he only scores 15-20 points, it will still be worth it, as long as multiple low priced RBs don’t go off. If you don’t roster Gordon, and he goes off, you might as well consider your lineups dead. In that scenario, you simply won’t have a chance to do well on this slate. Again, if Gordon somehow doesn’t do very well, you can argue that his poor performance won’t even hurt you too badly, as as much as 70% of the field could roster him as well. It is absolutely plausible for him to score under 20 points and not kill your lineups.
  2. Strategy #2: You fade Melvin Gordon. No matter how much of a lock a player appears to be, there is always a set of circumstances that can enable them to fail. Gordon will be at least 50% owned, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the highest owned player on the slate. With Gordon being a volume dependent player, he will need to see a big workload in order to be most effective. The Chargers have several ways they can put points on the board without overly relying on Gordon. Quarterback Philip Rivers has no problem slinging the ball all over the field and feeding his wide receivers and tight ends. Dallas could sell out to stop the run, which would free Rivers to go into gun-slinger mode. As we saw last week, the Chargers defense is also capable of scoring on their own. If their dominant pass rush is able to force Dak Prescott and company into some turnovers, they could end up with yet another pick six or fumble return touchdown. Further limiting Gordon, is the emergence of rookie handcuff Austin Ekeler. Ekeler played on only 7% fewer offensive snaps in week 11 compared to Gordon. The Los Angeles coaching staff knows that Gordon is injury prone, and they won’t force him to be the bell cow. If Ekeler vultures a touchdown and/or a few catches here and there, we could see Gordon limited to 10-15 fantasy points or fewer. When you also add in the injury risk, there is a ton of merit to being underweight compared to the field on Melvin Gordon. In the event that he busts and scores for example 8 points, you will have a significant advantage on your competition by not rostering him.

Again, there are two different strategies when it comes to rostering Melvin Gordon. If you are playing cash games, don’t even consider fading him for a single second. The same goes for head to head games, as there is absolutely no upside to it. However, when it comes to large field GPP tournaments (which are a much better bet to play on this short slate), you will have to choose between strategy 1 and strategy 2. Some DFS players don’t like to heavily rely on game theory, but the reality of this slate is that you must do so in order to be successful.

Los Angeles has not featured either of their tight ends very regularly over the past few weeks, or this season in general. Antonio Gates is doing his best to prove to everyone that  he’s the slowest skill position player in the NFL, and at this point he isn’t even capable of stringing together a few catches and a short touchdown. Unless you like giving money away, do not play Gates. Hunter Henry‘s stat lines have been just as bad as Gates recently. The difference here is Henry actually has talent. Obviously, Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, but at this stage of his career, he is miles and miles behind the skillset of Hunter Henry. Henry can be considered for large field tournaments, but you might be doing yourself a favor if you look elsewhere as Henry doesn’t have a large enough role in this offense at this current point in time.

My main interests from the Chargers offense will come from the passing game. Austin Ekeler could see a decent amount of targets and usage out of the backfield. With over 40 fantasy points in his last two games, 4200 seems like a bargain for the un-drafted rookie out of Western State. I wish playing him was a little bit more sneaky than it actually is, as I have the feeling that many people have noticed his increased role as of late. A possible way to be even more contrarian is to play both Gordon and Ekeler in your lineups, as they could both easily see double digit touches. As far as the wide receivers, there is plenty of reason to be intrigued here. WR Keenan Allen is coming off his best game of the season as he smashed the Bills for 12 catches, 159 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He could once again feast this week, as there is nobody in the Dallas secondary that can truly contain him. As we have seen in his career, Allen is absolutely capable of stringing together consecutive huge performances, as he and Rivers are very capable of getting hot together. In week 11, Tyrell Williams actually led the team in snaps played, but he hasn’t really had a good game this year other than in week 4, when he scored over 25 fantasy points. That was more of an outlier than a trend, thanks to Williams’ 75 yard touchdown against the Eagles. In this matchup in Dallas, Williams is in play as a large field tournament play. If you’re fading Melvin Gordon, you are likely reasoning that production will come from other places on the Chargers offense. If you’re making multiple GPP lineups, its worth taking a shot on ‘Tyrell The Gazelle’. Travis Benjamin is a speedy big play threat who is nursing an abdomen injury. If he plays this week, he is likely to be limited due to the injury. Further cementing his lack of upside is his unusually low snap count of 21 in last week’s game. Rookie Mike Williams seems to be slowly working his way up the depth chart. Coming out of Clemson, there was little doubt about Williams talent level, as the Chargers thought highly enough of him to take him with the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft. As long as William’s nagging knee injury isn’t bothering him too much, he has a good chance to find the end zone or at least rack up enough targets to be productive. With a 6’3″ frame and impressive playmaking skills, Williams has a solid chance to be a matchup problem for cornerbacks in the NFL for years to come. On Thanksgiving, the Chargers passing attack will come down to the health of Benjamin and Mike Williams, as well as the Cowboys ability—or lack thereof— to limit Keenan Allen. There is a good chance that the winning GPP lineup in tournaments has a Chargers offensive player other than, or in addition to Melvin Gordon.

The Cowboys offense has a considerably worse DFS outlook this week, despite this game being a pick ’em game. With questions about the status of multiple starters on the offensive line as well as the guaranteed absence of Zeke Elliot, the Cowboys rushing attack is no longer formidable. Running back Alfred Morris is certainly in play, based on volume alone, but it’s hard to get overly excited about the idea of playing him. It is worth noting that the Chargers defense is much worse against the run than the pass, which does set up well for Morris. However, his upside is limited considering that Dallas has leaned on a running back by committee approach since Elliot’s suspension kicked in. RBs Rod Smith and Keith Smith contribute to this backfield as well, but quite frankly, neither are very good players and don’t have enough volume or upside to be anything more than large field GPP shots in the dark.

Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled immensely last week against the Eagles, as he actually finished with negative fantasy points. Prescott will once again have the burden of carrying the offense this week as he will not only be the key cog to the passing attack, but also the run game as well. Prescott has been extremely effective in his young career, but almost all of his success has come with running mate Ezekiel Elliot by his side. With Elliot gone for a few more weeks, defenses have decided to key in on stopping the Prescott to Dez Bryant connection. Can you blame them? Bryant seems to be the only player on the Cowboys offense at this point that is talented enough to take over a game by himself. Los Angeles will be more than happy to greet him with stud cover cornerback Casey Hayward, as the Chargers try to force the Cowboys to rely on other receivers. With the possibility of Dallas being down two of their offensive lineman, the Chargers relentless pass rush can really pin their ears back and get after Prescott. With L.A. defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa in his face all afternoon, Prescott may not have time to go through his full progression, further limiting the chance he has to connect with Bryant over the top. If this predicted outcome does indeed play out, a couple different DFS plays stand out to me. The Chargers defense is the obvious and surefire one, as they come into this game on fire, and with favorable circumstances. Los Angeles was able to harass Bills rookie QB Nathan Peterman to the tune of 5—yes, 5— interceptions last week in the first half—yes you read that right—in the first half alone. Dallas pass catchers other than Bryant have a chance to be good value plays. WR Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are far from guaranteed to have successful afternoons, but along with veteran TE Jason Witten, they all certainly have a chance to put together a decent PPR stat line. The Cowboys completing quick passes on shorter routes to these three seems much more plausible than Dez Bryant burning through the secondary all afternoon. After all, the Dallas productive has to come from somewhere. Dak Prescott can still be considered as a contrarian play, as Dallas will surely be amped up for this Thanksgiving game in front of their home crowd. While Prescott has looked bad without Elliot, he is far from a bad quarterback. If you agree with me that the Dallas offense will continue to struggle, you may have also arrived at the conclusion that the Chargers defense is indeed a good play. Paired together with Melvin Gordon, this is an elite correlation play on this 3 game slate.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 45, with the Redskins favored by 7.5 points. This is the largest spread on the 3 game slate and it indicates that Las Vegas expects the Redskins to easily defeat the rival G-Men.

Weather & Injuries

It is expected to be a clear night with little cloud cover and no precipitation in the forecast. Temperatures should start in the forties and finish in the high thirties by the end of the game. This is the only game played outside on Thanksgiving, but thankfully the weather doesn’t appear to be much of a concern, with wind also not playing much of a factor. On the injury front, both teams have significant problems that will have a huge impact on this game.

Giants:
  • OL D.J. Fluker (OUT)
  • OL Justin Pugh (OUT)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (OUT)
  • LB Calvin Munson (Doubtful)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (Questionable)
  • LB Kelvin Shepard (Questionable)
    • The Giants are notably banged up at linebacker, as well as the offensive and defensive line, and wide receiver. This will have a huge impact on how the Redskins’ offense operates. 
  • DE Olivier Vernon (Questionable)
  • DT Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison (Questionable)
    • Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon are two of the Giants most important lineman. One or both of them missing this game would be great news for the Washington run game and passing game. 
  • WR Odell Beckham (OUT)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (OUT)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Questionable)
    • Beckham and Marshall have been out for a while while Shepard has missed some time as well. The Oklahoma product looks like he will miss this game as well, which completely drains the Giants receiving core of any legitimate talent. 
  • LS Zak DeOssie (Questionable)
Redskins:
  • The Redskins injury report is so unbelievably lengthy that they were actually unable to field a full practice this week. They merely did walk throughs, as they are missing so many players that its almost unheard of. To view the Redskins full injury report, simply click here.
  • The most notable injuries for the Redskins are on offense with three of their four best pass catchers on the shelf:

Game Breakdown

These NFC East rivals clash yet again, with both teams coming in extremely banged up. This entire game feels like it is dictated by injuries, as added usage will have to be accounted for amongst players filling in. Both teams are terrible at defending tight ends, which is where my initial focus went to when researching this game.

As the center of the Giants passing attack is rookie tight end Evan Engram. With the top three Giants receivers ruled out with injury, QB Eli Manning has no choice but to heavily target Engram. With a huge workload and a plus matchup, Engram should have a nice bounce back game on Thanksgiving. Engram did have his worst game of the year last week, as New York grinded out a 12-9 victory over the Chiefs. A combination of intense wind, as well as the Chiefs defensive focus limited Engram to only 1 catch. It is much less likely the Redskins are able to contain him this week, as they have notably been torched by tight ends all season. If you think the Redskins will actually be able to halt Engram, then you might want to take a shot in the dark on a guy like WR Roger Lewis or RB Shane Vereen.

The New York player that stands out as most appealing to me is RB Orleans Darkwa. His nickname is literally “The Dark Horse”. A sign that he’s a dark horse candidate to perform really well on Thanksgiving? Quite possibly so. I will have a decent amount of exposure to Darkwa in tournaments, as the Giants have to rely on somebody. With a struggling and depleted passing attack, the Giants might as well try to take some time off the clock and establish the running game against the rival Redskins. In the likely event the Redskins are leading throughout part or most of the game, running the ball won’t be nearly as optimal for Big Blue.

The Redskins backfield did have one of the best receiving RBs in all of the NFL. That was, until last week when Chris Thompson went down with an injury, and was ultimately placed on Injured Reserve. With Thompson now joining fellow RB Rob Kelley on the injury list, the backfield is firmly in the possession of Oklahoma product Samaje Perine. Perine himself is questionable with a finger issue, but should be able to suit up. He has a great chance to succeed with an inevitable usage increase, due to the now non-existent depth in the Redskins’ backfield. The alternate perspective on Perine is that he will likely be extremely high owned on Thursday, and we do want a fair amount of lineup differentiation. It is crucial to identify which players are ‘good chalk’ and which players are ‘bad chalk’. If the Redskins do plan on leaning more on the passing game, Perine could fail to to put up big numbers, and instead be more of chains mover with low upside. Despite this possibility, I find it to be more likely that he does indeed have a fairly decent role. As far as dark horse player emerging with value from this backfield, its a long shot, but you can get risky and roster Byron Marshall if you’re feeling froggy. He was recently signed from the Eagles practice squad, and has somewhat of a chance to step into a poor man’s Chris Thompson role, as Perine is not very adept as a pass catcher.

The Redskins have the highest projected point total of any of the six teams on this slate. Not only is Kirk Cousins the highest priced quarterback on this slate, but he will will probably be the highest owned QB as well. While Cousins very easily score 20-30 points, the tournament player in me wants to fade him, save 1100 and play a guy like Lions QB Matt Stafford. I definitely won’t be fading Cousins, but I’ll have a large chunk of lineups in which I go contrarian at QB and find another option. As DFS expert Al Zeidenfield noted earlier this week, you can get exposure to the Washington passing attack without necessarily playing Kirk Cousins. Cousins won’t be able to rely on RB Chris Thompson, WR Terrelle Pryor, or TE Jordan Reed in this game. Increased usage is guaranteed to be spread around to other receivers, as the Redskins can’t put their whole game plan on the shoulders of Samaje Perine.

The Washington receiving core is now mainly made up of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Ryan Grant. Tight end Vernon Davis also figures to be heavily featured, with backup TEs Niles Paul and Jeremy Sprinkle having smaller roles. While Paul and Sprinkle are salary saving GPP long shots, my main interest comes from starting tight end Vernon Davis and the other three Redskins wide receivers. I will be playing not only Crowder, but also Doctson and Grant. I will likely have several different combinations of them as well, as it is very hard to predict the exact production for all three receivers. With injuries playing such a huge role in this game, the Redskins are now thinner than ever before. It will be extremely interesting to see how the roles and usage shake out amongst the Washington receivers.

#PlugPlayers of the Week

On a three game slate, it is very rare that I will have 100% exposure to multiple players. The #PlugPlayers listed here are just some of the ones that I will plan on having the most exposure to on Thanksgiving, as I believe them to have a safe floor as well as a high ceiling. Therefore, these players make for fantastic core plays in both a cash game format and in GPPs as well.

  • Lions WR Golden Tate (6200)
  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen (7600)
  • Redskins WR Jamison Crowder (5400)
  • Redskins TE Vernon Davis (5500)
  • Chargers RB Melvin Gordon (8100)

Sneaky Tournament Targets

These players will be sprinkled into some of my lineups, for two reasons. First of all, they are extreme salary savers, that open up my budget so I can afford more high priced studs. Second, they are all flying way under the radar, compared to how much they should be talked about. Note that many more tournament targets are listed throughout this article as well.

  • Lions RBs Theo Riddick (3600) & Amer Abdullah (3900)
  • Giants RB Orleans Darkwa (4600)
  • Cowboys WRs Terrance Williams (3400) & Cole Beasley (3600)
  • Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (4200) & WR Tyrell Williams (3400)

Contrarian Strategy & Recap

Plenty of tournament targets are listed throughout this article, so the #PlugPlayers are by no means the only players you should focus on. To win a GPP on this slate, we will need to differentiate our lineups in multiple creative ways, to make sure we don’t get lumped in with the rest of our opponents. It is important to separate the idea of differentiating lineups, and the idea of playing low owned players just to do so. Just because nobody will be playing a certain guy, doesn’t mean it makes sense to use him. There are also ways to use high owned chalky players, in a non-chalky way. For example, you can play multiple Redskins WR without Kirk Cousins, you can play both Vikings WR instead of one or the other, or you can even experiment with playing both Lions RBs. No matter what strategies you decide to use, I heavily encourage everyone to use a lineup optimizer, which you can find on various DFS websites. This will help you stick to your ownership goals, as well as help you find the most optimal lineup(s) possible, based on your projections.

Last but not least, to wrap things up I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you find what you’re looking for both at the dinner table, as well as in your lineups. For more DFS strategy, be sure to follow me on Twitter. If you haven’t followed our main page already, make sure to give the New York Groove a follow as well. Best of luck this week everybody. Cheers!

Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

  1. Philadelphia Eagles 9-1 (-)
  2. New England Patriots 8-2 (-)
  3. Minnesota Vikings 8-2 (Up 3)
  4. New Orleans Saints 8-2 (-)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-2 (-)
  6. Los Angeles Rams 7-3 (Down 3)
  7. Carolina Panthers 7-3 (Up 1)
  8. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-3 (Up 1)
  9. Atlanta Falcons 6-4 (Up 3)
  10. Seattle Seahawks 6-4 (-)
  11. Detroit Lions 6-4 (Up 2)
  12. Tennessee Titans 6-4 (Down 1)
  13. Kansas City Chiefs 6-4 (Down 6)
  14. Dallas Cowboys 5-5 (-)
  15. Baltimore Ravens 5-5 (Up 6)
  16. Buffalo Bills 5-5 (Down 1)
  17. Washington Redskins 4-6 (Up 1)
  18. Green Bay Packers 5-5 (Down 2)
  19. Arizona Cardinals 4-6 (-)
  20. New York Jets 4-6 (-)
  21. Cincinnati Bengals 4-6 (Up 2)
  22. Los Angeles Chargers 4-6 (-)
  23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-6 (Up 4)
  24. Oakland Raiders 4-6 (Down 7)
  25. Houston Texans 4-6 (Up 3)
  26. Miami Dolphins 4-6 (Down 2)
  27. Denver Broncos 3-7 (Down 2)
  28. Chicago Bears 3-7 (Down 2)
  29. Indianapolis Colts 3-7 (-)
  30. New York Giants 2-8 (Up 1)
  31. San Francisco 49ers 1-9 (Down 1)
  32. Cleveland Browns 0-10 (-)